Yoga & Karate

By Susan Elrod

My first time teaching yoga was to Sensei Hofmeister’s karate students.  This was years before I started training in karate myself, and I assumed the students would find my curriculum unchallenging and even boring.  Thirty minutes into class, these extremely capable martial artists where puffing, sweating and in serious need of a break.

Once I started training in Yoshukai myself, I was surprised at how much my yoga practice had prepared me for traditional karate.  As I continued teaching yoga in our dojo, I began to select particular poses and stretches that I found to be especially helpful to karate training.  The series of posts below are some of those poses, grouped by the karate techniques I find they best correspond to.

Yoga for Beginner/Intermediate Kicks

Yoga for Intermediate/Advanced Kicks

Yoga for Stances

Yoga for Hip Stretches

Yoga Philosophy and Yoshukai

A couple things to remember if you decide to try these poses for yourself: 1. If anything you try causes sharp pain, especially in the joints, stop.  Every body is different, and some of these poses might not be helpful for you.  2. These poses are by no means comprehensive.  If you’re interested in trying yoga on your own, you’ll find almost all yoga practices develop the strength, flexibility, and body control that are beneficial to martial arts.  Finally, if you have any questions or want any more information, please feel free to contact me through the athensy.com website or find me at our next Yoshukai event.  Osu and namaste!

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Teaching with Efficiency

By Ken BlumreichKarateKenTeachingThrow

When teaching martial arts – or anything else, really – we are always in a race against the clock. Improvement comes through student practice, and every minute of lecture is one minute of drill time that is no longer available.

Efficient use of the time at the front of the class is the hallmark of an effective instructor. Here are three tips that you can use to maximize efficiency in the dojo:

Keep it simple.

Over-teaching is a common mistake. It occurs when an instructor goes into too much detail, or provides too many items to focus on. By the time the instructor is finished explaining, not only has unnecessary time been used, but the students have already forgotten part of the instruction.

To ensure that you are keeping things sufficiently simple, make certain that you are only trying to convey three or less main points, and that the essence of those points can be repeated back by the students with a single phrase. Verify this by having them call back your main points. Keep it simple!

Multi-task whenever feasible.

Teaching doesn’t have to involve standing at the front of the class and lecturing while the students stand at attention and listen. Whenever possible, combine the verbal portion of instruction with the demonstration or the active drill work. Demonstrate what you want the class to do, and explain it briefly during the demonstration. Add additional points in as the students are drilling.

Remember that this isn’t always possible. Sometimes safety issues or topic complexity will require that you have the class’s undivided attention while speaking. If you have to lecture, remember point 1 (Keep it simple!) and try to keep such lectures brief. Even then, you can increase efficiency by having students stretch while you talk. Multi-task whenever feasible!

KarateKenTeachingNunchakuAlways have a plan.

Teaching without preparation isn’t difficult, and it isn’t even bad; however, it will always be less efficient than teaching with preparation. When you are going to teach, come into the class with a plan in mind. Having an outline in your head is better than nothing. Having an outline in your hand is even better. Having a detailed lesson plan that can be reused in the future is best of all!

When developing your plan, remember point 1 and point 2: keep it simple (make sure that your plan includes the three points that you want students focusing on during skill building, and make sure that those points are concise enough to be easily called back), and multi-task whenever feasible (build this into your class plan so that you know, for example, that you’re going to be discussing sparring rules while warming up). Put in the time up front, and your time on the floor will run more smoothly. Always have a plan!

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it is a solid starting point that will help you minimize wasted time, and it’s easy to remember: Keep it simple, multi-task when feasible, always have a plan!

KarateKenTeachingUkemi

Continued Improvement

By Megan Lyn PowellMegan Powell with Soke Yamamoto

I began taking karate classes in the Fall of 2012 in the Tate Student Center at UGA. I had never been an athletic person, so this was all new to me. I was there to learn a few things, have some fun and workout. Mostly I just wanted to have fun!

Right away I learned some need-to-know basics such as punches, blocks and kicks. When it came time to learn inside and outside center blocks, one word described me: uncoordinated. Just when I thought I did it correctly and tried to replicate it, something would go awry. Sensei Dawkins was patient. It took me about two or three weeks of classes to finally get the hang of the blocks, but I finally conquered them!

Fast forward a few weeks and I was learning kata (Nijushichi No Kata and Kihon Kata Shodan). We had class twice per week and I wanted to practice more. One of the topics discussed during warm up was practicing on your own. Sensei Dawkins emphasized how useful it was to practice more. My thought at the time was, “…but I don’t want to mess up and learn it the wrong way.”

Athens Tournament with MLPSoon enough I began practicing in my apartment. I cannot say I always did my kata correctly. I am quite sure there were times when I messed up the order of the blocks in Nijushichi. Or I probably had my feet in the wrong position in Kihon Kata Shodan. The most important thing was just that I was doing it for myself.

Slowly but surely I began to notice that karate was helping me. I soon noticed that I could perform the correct block, punch, or kick the majority of the time. The most important lesson I have learned is Continued Improvement. What does it really mean?

Continued improvement is a common thread that is tied to almost every aspect, if not all, in the WYKKO. In testing to 4th kyu we learn that Yoshukai really has two meanings (Strive for Excellence and Association of Continued Improvement). We all have some aspect of Yoshukai that we strive to improve. We want our kata to look sharp, our fighting to be top-notch, etc. We may aim for a stronger mae geri, becoming more efficient with nunchuka/sai, and so forth. This gives us that drive to want to improve. There is always a technique or kata that we can become better at executing, or teaching to other students. This is what helps us to continually improve and grow as martial artists. It also can impact other facets of our lives. School, work, parenthood, working out, etc. are just a few examples where we can always aim for continued improvement. Taking what we learn from martial arts and applying it to everyday life helps us as human beings to constantly progress.

Continued improvement really just means to always aim to be better than you were yesterday or the day before. Whether this be in the form of martial arts or not, it is an important lesson that we can all learn.

Rikki Hitatsu!

Athens Yoshukai Karate - MLP Brown Belt

Who should be called Master?

In the WYKKO, there is no canon with respect to the title of Master. index The title of Shihan is given to Yondan blackbelts at some point in their training, before they can test to Godan.  Titles like Fukukaicho, Kaicho, and Soke relate to the individual’s role in the organization, but do not equate with titles like Renshi, Kyoshi, or Hanshi which other organizations use to indicate mastery.  The English title of Master is never officially used in the WYKKO.

When I wrote the WYKKO Handbook, I asked Masters Toyama and Culbreth about the use of the title Master.  They both seemed uncomfortable, and agreed that this is a title that cannot be claimed, it can only be conferred.  That is, an individual cannot attain a certain rank and say, “You should address me with the title Master now.”  Instead, the bosses said that an individual is given that title by their students or others below them in the organization.  Presumably, Soke could say that a certain rank of student should be addressed as Master, but he hasn’t done that to date (December 2015).

So, now we have a situation where the students need to be aware of when they can or should use the title Master.  Technically, since the bosses say this is a title conveyed by the students, the students could choose to use this title when addressing any blackbelt.  Within the WYKKO, however, it would be odd for students to address some blackbelts as Master.  So, how can students be appropriately respectful and avoid a faux pas?

The easiest solution is to never use the title of Master.  The bosses address each other (and everyone else, including Soke) as Mister, and most or all of the Shihan-ranked blackbelts also address everyone as Mister (or Miss).  I insist on using the title of Master for two reasons.  One, other styles use the title of Master, and I think it’s important to emphasize that there are individuals within our organization who have a degree of proficiency that one would acknowledge as Master.  Two, I do feel that some distinguishing title should be used when addressing certain high-ranked blackbelts to distinguish them from other high-ranked blackbelts.  The formal titles (Sempai, Shihan-Dai, Shihan, Kyoshi, and Kaicho) are not used in verbal forms of address.

If you want to use the title of Master when addressing or referring to a high-rank blackbelt, the only rule of thumb I have is my Sensei.  Sensei Blanck would refer to Master Toyama _as_ Master Toyama.  This was when Sensei was a Yondan and Master Toyama was a Rokudan.  Everyone also referred to Master Koda as Master when he was a Shichidan.  Therefore, I assume any blackbelt at Rokudan or higher rank may be addressed as Master.  You may also restrict the use of the Master title to the Directors of the organization- Master Toyama and Master Culbreth.

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Working Out on the Go

By Hali Serrian

There are times in every martial artist’s life when they can’t be at the dojo. Maybe you’re Athens Yoshukai Exerciseon vacation, interviewing for a job in another state, or just away for whatever reason. You can still practice karate, even in a hotel room! And it’s good to keep up your practice so when you return you’ll be able to jump back in right where you left off. In this post, I’ll be focusing on some exercises you can do in a hotel room, or anywhere there’s not as much space as we have in the dojo.

Kata

You can run forms in a small space, it just takes creativity and a bit of flexibility. Try to find the most open space you can and get started. Once you reach a wall (if you’re doing the I-Forms this will probably happen somewhere going up or down the “I”), just scoot back a couple steps and keep going. It can be a bit weird at first, but you’re still getting practice for the form in.

Kicks

Kicks are fairly easy to practice on the go because they don’t take up much space. The same applies for punches and blocks. If you’re looking for a different way to work on yourhttps://i0.wp.com/amkorkarate.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Aston-Wall-Kicks.jpg kicks, try the exercise where you hold one hand on a wall, chamber for your kick, and extend out and in without putting your foot down 10 times. Then on the last extension, hold your leg out for a 10-count. This can be quite a workout, and it helps you with your kicking form without having to worry about balance.

 

Balance

You can work on balance while you’re away, like the drills that you do while practicing at home. Stand on one leg (Ippon Ashi Dachi) while you watch T.V., brush your teeth, or talk on the phone. For a tougher version, try moving your leg up and down, side to side, or in a circle, all while keeping the 90 degree bend in your knee. Then try straightening the leg without setting it down. Lean forward and backward on one leg, and then shift your weight side to side. If it gets too tough, focus your gaze on one spot. If it gets to easy, let your gaze wander or close your eyes completely.

Calisthenics

If you don’t feel like working karate specifically, you can simply do some basic exercises, most of which don’t take up a lot of room. Pushups, bodyweight squats, lunges, crunches, dead cockroaches, jumping jacks, shadow boxing; the possibilities are endless. Anything that gets your heart pumping and your blood moving can help you in your martial arts training.

There is plenty to do for your training even when you’re not in the dojo. Keeping up your practice is what helps you continue along a steady path even if you can’t always have steady attendance.

Body Conditioning: Toughening Up

Body conditioning is a part of traditional Okinawan karate. Body https://i0.wp.com/i.ytimg.com/vi/RZjQ1WOTUBA/hqdefault.jpgconditioning is the practice of taking hits to the body or hitting something fairly tough in order to strengthen one’s ability to “take a hit”. It is supposed to make the body stronger, but often it’s mostly the fighter getting used to being hit. When fighting, blows don’t hurt as much because they’re used to it through body conditioning.

In our dojo, we typically introduce the idea of body conditioning around blue belt. We might have blue belts work their targeting by punching their partner in the stomach instead of a pad. Both partners would alternate. Obviously, we wouldn’t be using our hardest punches right off the bat. As with any new exercise, we start slow and easy and work our way up.

My first experience with body conditioning was with me acting as the conditioner to some black belts. They were working conditioning by being punched in the stomach by yellow belts. We yellow belts were working on being able to hit people with some actual force.

https://i1.wp.com/iainabernethy.com/articles/images/makiwaralk-1.jpgIn Okinawan tradition, makiwara, or punching boards, are used to toughen up striking surfaces. These are exactly what they sound like: boards that you hit in order to toughen up. Trees and poles are acceptable makiwara substitutes.

Working with our heavy bag is akin to working with a makiwara. It’s tough against the hands, and can hurt the wrists if you aren’t punching properly. Proper technique is absolutely necessary before you attempt to condition that body part.

Body conditioning sounds a bit scary and intimidating as a concept when you’re a white belt, and even when you’re a blue belt. But body conditioning is built into training. Sparring is a form of body conditioning. The more you punch, the tougher you’ll get, even if you’re not consciously focusing on it. However, focusing on body conditioning helps it get that much better.

Fighting

By Dala Griffeth

I don’t want to fight you, but we can spar!

Any time I tell someone for the first time that I practice karate, they always start talking about how I must be able to beat people up, or I must love to fight. The truth is that while we all know fighting is part of our traditional training, it is not who we are. I believe sparring as well as kumite to be incredibly valuable in martial arts training to help develop the reflexes, strength and stamina necessary to practice our art at the highest level. However, your attitude and intentions regarding this training and its use are equally, if not more important.

Through my years training with the WYKKO, I have met and fought some incredible fighters, and I have learned something from every single one. And while many of these incredibly talented individuals spend a majority of their training time developing their fighting skills, there is not one of them that I would consider violent. This is something that I love about training with the WYKKO, and particularly Athens Yoshukai. We, as martial artists, understand that we are participating in a combative, contact sport, but I feel that we emphasize the sport aspect more than the combat. We never go into the ring attempting to injure our opponent, or hoping to cause any lasting damage. We instead focus on improving our own skills and fitness levels, as well as helping our training partners improve themselves and develop new skills. As a result, we build an incredibly tight network of, not just training partners or teachers and students, but true friends.

My personal philosophy regarding fighting and sparring can be summed up pretty simply by the title of this post: I don’t want to fight you, but we can spar! When I think of fighting, I think of a situation where there are no rules, and I am in a struggle to protect myself or my loved ones from an opponent that wants to cause real harm. And while we practice full contact kumite, there are guidelines in place to ensure the safety of participants. And that, I think, is the big difference, the intent. In a real-life situation, I would do whatever is necessary to protect myself or my loved ones. But in general, I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to improve myself. So please, to anyone out there who wants to teach me something, or would like to learn from my experience, I don’t want to fight you, but we can spar! Osu!